Dana Wigdor: Something's Hovering
Dana Wigdor could be called a visionary landscapist with elegant technique, but there is something which separates her work from the expansive barn compositions or fuzzy little pastels of empty fields or kitchen window views we see so often. Fulfilling our expectations, they are Kahnesque or quote Emil Bonnard. No, there is something else here and it seems to hover. That something is hard to describe. But exactly how does one bring a 500-year-old tradition of painting into yet another century? Beyond the Dutch van Ruisdale and the English Turner? Beyond El Greco's view of Toledo? Beyond Cézanne, Van Gogh, even Milton Avery? This question is of course the type which might give a nature-loving brush-wielder nightmares. Once in a while one of them finds that "something." But how?
In this case it is not by ignoring tradition. Dana is studious and precise in her use of glazes, and "builds" a painting with an impeccable surface. Until recently she selectively kept her palette to three colors: Prussian blue, cadmium red light, and titanium white. From these she created a nearly full range of color. She draws a geometric composition first before "finding" the landscape, and the clouds of mist and shafts of light which describe the space are "found" through the buildup of glazes. And after all this, it is time to find that ... "something."
If it is not hovering then perhaps it is floating in or gliding through the landscape. It sometimes winks at us through a mist, almost invisible, yet active. It is disseminating objects, it has an aura. The something seems organic and machine-like. Sometimes aquatic. It might be extraterrestrial. it might be something which is to be found and found gain differently by every viewer who encounters the experience. Sometimes that "something" has just left the picture. A moment ago. And something was left behind. From the "something." Dana Wigdor has exhibited her work locally at Cafe Beyond, Gallery in the Woods, and The Ballroom Gallery, and is currently showing five new diptychs (two separate canvases together making one picture) at Max's Restaurant on Western Avenue. They will remain up for the summer.
As you enter the back room of Max's, on your left is a piece called "Cloud Study." Two 14-inch canvases are juxtaposed. The tenderly painted clouds create a gesture like the letter "V" across the two canvases, giving a feeling of opening into the celestial realm above.
Straight ahead is the large painting "Integration: Blue/Green" (80" x 40"). Again two squares, but now we have entered into an atmosphere aerial or aquatic. Wigdor has used the reflective quality of the glaze mix selectively, and certain planes shimmer more and others less. An object is floating in the lefthand panel. It seems to be a UFO or perhaps a diver. It is sowing the atmosphere with small shapes. The artist has expanded her palette, adding transparent yellow and green hues in this and other new works. The result are warm, grassy areas like the one on the righthand panel of this piece.
To the right is "Different Plane" (72" x 36"). In this work the physical aspect of the smaller righthand canvas is counterweighted by a vertical plane on the opposite end of the lefthand canvas. In fact, the painter has explained that her use of the diptych grew out of the use of such painted planes. The drawn and physical elements are integrated well. In this work, as in others in the show, the "object" is in the left section. "The left side," quoth the painter, "is presence; the right is absence."
A sort of organic "knot" of a shape is connected to a delicate, machine-like "floaty" with wing-like appendages. The silky rectangles protruding are like the floppy, transparent rectangles floating, like gels, through the sky. There is a mystical presence which pervades the picture. This is a world full of light we accept with pleasure.
In "Fugue" (60" x 30") two "somethings" hover together and converse, while circles of light, or bubbles, float where they will; and in "Counting Backwards" (48" x 30") Dana describes a landing site seen from an aerial point of view. In the lush green field depicted, a glowing circle of yellow light is central and radiates out through the picture. A few of those floating orbs of light still bob about.
Dana has elaborated on the idea of two views in one picture and compares one of her glazed planes to "a fold in space." To hear her expand on these and other points about her work, one might attend the lecture she will give at the Fleming Museum in Burlington on Friday, September 5, at 7 p.m., or at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center on Thursday, November 20. Her work is featured in a group show that travels to both locations.
Copyright 2003, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont